APRIL 2001

Monday, April 30, 2001
Interesting weekend. Saw a lot of people I haven't seen since graduation. My comment on everything: It's just like college...but we're not arguing.

With my current situation of unemployment and poverty, I've resorted to doing odd jobs for my landlords. Today I helped put this spackle sealer stuff on the walls of one of their houses' basements. The time went fast, but now my arms hurt. The goo you use to seal basement walls is heavy! Tomorrow I get to do yardwork. Woo.

I don't know if I'm starting to get depressed about not working, or if I'm just moody, or if I drank too much on Friday night and haven't yet recovered, but I'm not feeling very good about myself lately. I don't feel like I'm contributing anything to anyone, and then I get annoyed that I need a job to feel worthwhile. I know I should be enjoying this time off, though. When I was working my crappy job, all I could think about was how I couldn't wait to not work and just have every day to myself. Hello irony.

Yeesh. Well, I guess I should go to the grocery store. We're out of everything! @

Thursday, April 26, 2001
I'm off to Buffalo for a few days to hang with some college buddies. Unemployment = Road Trips. When else will I find the time? Anyway, I'll be back Sunday or Monday, so it'll be quiet here for a few days. @

Wednesday, April 25, 2001
At UB, we used to have this joke about people from Long Island (which is that little piece of land that juts off of NY east of the city). It went like this:

Q: How many UB students from Long Island does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Two. One to screw in the lightbulb and one to talk about how much better it is to screw in lightbulbs on Long Island.

As you've probably figured out, Long Islanders weren't too happy about Buffalo. They complained about Buffalo a lot and always said how much better things were back on Long Island. (If you've ever been to Long Island, this is really funny because Long Island, while an okay place, is really nothing special.) I bring this up because in looking through my posts from the past week or so, I've realized that I'm doing the same thing with Kalamazoo and New York. Since I'd rather not have people making up jokes about me and lightbulbs, and since Kalamazoo is fairly decent, I thought I'd say some nice things about my current city of residence.

Let's see. The downtown area is nice. There are two major colleges in town, Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College. Kalamazoo is home to The State Theatre, which looks like an 18th century French castle on the inside and gets some pretty good national acts on the stage. The Kalamazoo Public Library looks like a rocket. If you like baseball, you might like to know that Derek Jeter is from Kalamazoo. There are some very good restaurants in town. And, perhaps most important, is Bell's Brewery, a Kalamazoo microbrewery that has the thumbs-up approval of beer aficionado Michael Jackson. (No, not that Michael Jackson. The other Michael Jackson.)

Kalamazoo is also a fairly inexpensive place to live, and lots of people (including myself before I moved here) think it's a fictional place. It rhymes with Timbuktu, which some people also think is fictional. And the town motto is "Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo!" What's better than that? The kazoos that the city sometimes hands out. They have "Kalamazoo! Sounds like fun!" printed on them. @

Tuesday, April 24, 2001
I was kind of depressed yesterday, so I went to the local Barnes & Noble last night to walk around and look at whatever. I spent almost an hour listening to the new Rockapella In Concert CD in their music section. It was really cheesy, and while I was listening to it, I was holding a copy of the Coldplay CD so no one would think I was actually listening to Rockapella, but when I was done I felt a lot better. Don't tell anyone, but I used to really like a cappella music. I guess I just thought it was cool that people could reproduce a pop song with only their voices. I still have a closet appreciation for it, just outgrow some things. @

Monday, April 23, 2001
Not that I go out of my way or anything to watch TV tabloid shows, but if they're on while I'm flipping around the five channels I get (no cable), I'm usually a sucker for them. Last night on Extra I saw a bit about a sheriff who has put live webcams in his jail. How very very fascinating.

It has been a slow, boring, rainy, depressing day. I thought I'd enjoy unemployment a lot more than I am. @

Sunday, April 22, 2001
Happy earth day.

More on yesterday's topic: I was at a party last night, and someone asked me if I thought that people in the midwest are friendlier than people in New York. I get this question a lot, and my answer is no.

Let me explain. People in New York will, generally, not look at you when you're walking down the street. They won't go out of their way to say hi to people they don't know. But I don't think this translates to unfriendliness. I think it just means that they're minding their own business and expect you to mind your own business too.

People in Kalamazoo (and, I presume, in most of the midwest and probably in the south too) will look at you and smile. They'll talk to you about anything. And just like I don't think New Yorkers are unfriendly because they mind their own business, I don't think this inclination to talk to anyone about anything translates to friendliness. It just means they talk. A lot. To you and me and anyone else. It's not bad that some random woman starts telling me about how her son isn't doing so well in school or how her daughter is a great cross country runner, but I don't think it means she's friendly. I just think it means that she needed to tell her thoughts to someone, and I just happened to be in close proximity and didn't walk away when she started talking.

I'm from New York, and I think I'm a reasonably friendly person. I think most New Yorkers are friendly, and I don't think they're any less friendly than midwesterners. New Yorkers just make sure you get to know them before they start telling you all of the idiosyncrasies in their lives. We're more cautious, and we make you earn it, so to speak. @

Saturday, April 21, 2001
On the way back from New York on Monday, my friend Mic and I were talking about how it's only a 12-hour drive from Kalamazoo to New York City, yet some people from Southwest Michigan never make it outside of the state, let alone to New York or another big city. Lots of people from here are so unbelievably content that they never want to leave for anything; it was like that in Buffalo, too, and I'm sure it's like that in a lot of small-to-mid-sized cities, especially ones with large universities.

Sample life: you grow up in a city/town with 70,000-200,000 residents, go to school with the same people for 12 years, graduate, go to the large local state university and still hang out with your high school friends even though you can get to know about 20,000 people who didn't grow up with you, graduate, and then live in the same town for the rest of your life. Bonus situation: buy your parents' house from them when they retire to Florida or Arizona.

I guess I'm being kind of mean. These mid-sized towns have some good things about them. My point, though, is that a lot of people never leave. Ever. To do anything. Vacation? Oh, let's just drive an hour north and find a place to stay for the weekend. Going somewhere different, where people have had different upbringings and have different accents and eat different food (sidenote: a friend of mine went home to Iowa and couldn't find pesto anywhere in the state) has never crossed their minds. There are people in this world who, if you offered them a free vacation to either Paris or Disney World, would take the Disney trip. Between a city that could tell you the story of almost all of humanity and a bricked-over swamp with grown men in mouse costumes, they'd take the swamp. The swamp!

I sometimes get anti-city attitude here in Kalamazoo, anti-New York specifically. When I first went to the Secretary of State's office to get my license (they don't call it the DMV or MVA here), everyone was really nice. They saw my previous ID was from Maryland and told me that they hear that Motor Vehicle Bureaus on the east coast employ some awful people, "especially New York. New Yorkers are so mean!" I asked the woman if she had ever been to New York. She said no.

The oven just buzzed. Goody! My banana bread is ready! (To be continued.) @

Friday, April 20, 2001
48 Hours was really weird last night. It was all about sleep disorders. Did you see it? My favorite part was when they showed people who get up and eat in the middle of the night and don't even realize they're doing it. And it's not like they're taking a few forkfuls of leftovers -- we're talking large amounts of junk food, and two or three times a night. These people were putting on all this weight because of it, but because they were sleepwalking, they didn't know that they were eating so much, and so they couldn't stop themselves from doing it.

I've written before how I think I'm borderline narcoleptic or something, because I get so unbelievably tired at the worst times and in the worst places. I find all this stuff on weird sleep patterns totally interesting, probably because I'm hoping one day I'll be watching and they'll tell me how to stop being so tired all the time. It's not like I don't get enough sleep, and I don't drink coffee, so I'm never really coming down off a big crazy caffeine high. I'm just sleepy. My mom thinks I don't have enough iron in my blood, and my dad tells me all the time that I just need a good steak, even though he knows I don't touch red meat. I just want to be awake and energized, or at the very least not so zonked that I fall asleep at parties.

Speaking of, my band is playing tonight, so I should probably go take a nap. @

Thursday, April 19, 2001
Following up on yesterday's post: the review of Double Fold from this past Sunday's New York Times Book Review and an interview with Mr. Baker himself. I would have posted this stuff yesterday, but I didn't get around to reading the Book Review until last night. (Hey man, have you seen the Sunday Times? It's a big paper!) I suppose the next logical step is the book.

One of Baker's biggest targets in his book is the Library of Congress. I agree with him that they've probably made more than a few mistakes in dumping some old papers, but they regain some credibility with this bizarre Bob Hope and American Variety exhibit. @

Wednesday, April 18, 2001
It's good to see that someone is standing up for old newspapers! I read an article in The New Yorker about eight months ago about Nicholson Baker's quest to save old papers from being pulped; turns out it was an excerpt from his new book Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. You remember Nicholson Baker: he wrote that Vox book, the phone sex novel that Bill Clinton liked so much that he gave a copy to Monica. He's also started the not-for-profit American Newspaper Repository so that large libraries looking to unload their old collections would consider selling them to him. (Apparently, you have to be a nonprofit organization before they'll consider giving you their old papers.) Slate has picked up on Baker's crusade too.

Sure, microforms suck. All those cumbersome rolls, those clunky machines -- who wants to read like that? Like most technological "advances" from 50 years ago, it's still used even though it's been outdated for 49 years and was never really that great to begin with. My contention with microforms is twofold. First, it's unnatural. We've been taught to read from books. Hypertext is changing that a little (though you've heard the screaming from those against e-books), but given the choice between an old paper and a microform of that same paper, I'll take the original. Holding the actual newspaper (or bound volume) in your hand just seems more authentic. You can actually see the layout and look at everything without having to play with the horizontal and vertical alignment. Everything's right there when you've got the original. There's little satisfaction in straining your neck to read piecemeal from microforms.

My main contention, though, is privacy. It's not like I'm looking at dirty magazines on microforms, but I really don't think everyone around the microform machine needs to see what I'm reading. I need my space, and I'd rather not hear a bunch of clicking and whirring from the neighboring machines. It's more private -- and much less distracting -- to just sit at a table and flip pages.

I wonder if I should be recycling my newspapers like I always have. @

Tuesday, April 17, 2001
Came back from NY to find my printer, microwave, furnace, and both of our stereos fried. We had a windstorm, an outage, and then a power surge. Our landlords took care of the furnace the next day, but the rest of the stuff is junk now. The power company is insisting that it was an act of god, and that they're not responsible. I say, an act of god is a tornado or something like that. Power lines that surge are their fault. So, we're arguing until they reimburse us.

The trip itself was great, though. Went to the Guggenheim and marvelled at how dusty the place is. Hung out in the village on Sunday. Ate well, especially on Sunday night when we went to an all-you-can-eat sushi bar. Saw some people. Bought some stuff. All in all, a good time.

So now I'm back to looking for a job and wondering how long my money will hold out. (I give it six weeks. Maybe seven.) It was almost depressing being in New York, because there's so much more opportunity there. Kalamazoo is great if you're a trucker, a machine engineer, or a pizza delivery person. Otherwise, there's not a lot.

I have to go unpack now. @

Wednesday, April 11, 2001
Sometimes -- sometimes the midwest just really sucks. Sorry, but it does. So, I'm off to NY for some R and R with the M and P. I'll be back around Tuesday or so. Hopefully between now and then I'll have a few good bagels. Good god, I sure hope I do. Lateron. @

Tuesday, April 10, 2001
I've been thinking that keeping this site has been good for me. I've tried keeping journals before, but it's never worked. It just always seemed to me that when you write a journal, in the back of your mind you always think that someone, someday might read it. You know: when you're famous or dying or dead. But for me, that kind of gratification wasn't immediate enough. Sure, I write for me, but I also write to be read, even it's by just one or two people. But I tried anyway. A few times. I'd get all psyched up to write in my journal, keep it faithfully for about a week, and then...nothing. I'd just forget about it, put if off, or decide that it was pointless. A few months later, I'd find the notebook I had written this stuff down in, read what I had written, rip it up, and then use the notebook for class notes. I never bought one of those nice journaly-looking bound books with blank pages because I knew my track record and could never seem to bring myself to buy something nice when I knew it'd just go unused.

I'm amazed, impressed, and a little confused at how many people use the web to put their personal innards out there to whomever wants to see it. In a way, I think it's a rekindling of the ideas of the Romantics (as in English writers between 1800-ish and 1850-ish, not sappy people who buy lots of roses): that if it's happening to me, it must be happening to someone else. Keeping this stuff public on the web allows you to share what's happening to you and to see who these "someone elses" it's also happening to are. So it's good: for the first time ever, I'm diligently keeping a journal. For whatever the motivation. @

Monday, April 9, 2001
Unemployment, Day One. Had what I thought was going to be an interview this morning. It turned out to be just a copy editing test. I'm not sure why they didn't interview me, but the woman I was dealing with was talking about having me work there for a day to get a feel for the place. I guess that's good. Who knows? Actually, I hope it is, since it's a great company and the office looks like a super cool place to work.

I got a MasterCard application in the mail yesterday. "But Amy, what's special about that?" you're asking. Hold on, hold on. Because this is not just any old MasterCard. No no no. This is the "Platinum MasterCard that celebrates French heritage!" Ooh la la. Now: I'm not French. I don't speak French, and I've never been to France. I like the French food I've tried, but not enough to want to cut up the credit cards I'm currently using so I can replace it with one that has a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it. I'm not even sure why I got the application in the first place. The only thing I can think of is that their database person included my name on the "French card mailer" list because my last name is Levine, and some people think that's French. (I think they're silly.) Needless to say, the application is on it's way to the trash. @

Sunday, April 8, 2001
Have you seen today's New York Times Magazine? If not, go grab one. What a great issue. It's a how-to guide for quote-unquote modern life (or how The NY Times sees it, which may very well be and quite possibly is vastly different from your own reality bubble). My favorite piece in it is about email behaviors. In the article, Bruce Headlam makes the following observation:

"High-status employees, for example, tended to send short, curt messages, in part to minimize contact with lower-status workers but also to convey comfort with their own authority. (A typical example from Owens's study: "Agenda items: Update on people, equipment, collab space, etc.") Midstatus employees, by contrast, tend to produce long, argumentative messages laden with jargon or overexplicated answers to simple questions. ("I vote for the March date, since it seems to me that a smaller, earlier, more focused meeting is better at this preliminary stage.") Surprisingly, senior managers -- who take the longest to reply to e-mail messages -- are the least likely to use the carbon-copy function ("cc") because, Owens suggested, they want to appear to be managing other people individually. Perhaps less surprisingly, bosses tend to have the poorest spelling and worst grammar, conveying the sense that they have better things to do with their time."

For the most part, I've found this to be dead on. However, I want to make the argument (hello, middle management) that upper level execs might also neglect to use the CC function because they don't know it's there. I've found that to be true in a few of the upper-management types I used to work with/for. Still, accurate and interesting points.

And now for the weather: It's 75 and sunny out! After my next load of laundry, I am not washing (or wearing -- duh) socks until September. House rules. @

Saturday, April 7, 2001
Last night I went to this weird grad student party, and the professor's house it was in had a real, honest-to-god fallout shelter! It was probably one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The house was built in '54, they said, and the shelter was apparently in the original design. It was off the basement, through a very narrow (like two feet) concrete hallway with lots of winding turns and steps. The shelter itself was a small concrete room, probably 7' by 10'. It had a large container for water, a small (and kind of yucky looking) toilet, and a hand-crank generator. It was shut off from the rest of the house at the start of the narrow hallway by a thick metal door.

I'd never really seen anything like it. I was born in 1974, and while I remember the cold war and being scared of a nuclear attack, and even running home from babysitting jobs and thinking that we were going to be bombed, the whole scare kind of ended when I was 12 or so. I've seen those dingy yellow and black signs in buildings that indicate there's a fallout shelter in the basement, but whenever I've tried to get down to see one, the door that seemed most appropriate was always locked. So to see a real one -- to actually stand in it and wonder how long the original homeowners thought they could last in such a small, dank dungeon while the fallout went on -- was kickass.

Yesterday was also my last day at work. I am now officially unemployed. @

Thursday, April 5, 2001
Some random things for a sleepy day:

  • The postal service is complaining that they need to cut Saturday service because their business has slowed. Umm...I get like five credit card applications a day, newsletters from places I've never heard of, and junk mail like no one's business. Does that not count as "business"?
  • I really want one of those new G4s with a DVD burner inside. Now: who wants to loan me $3,500?
  • Have I mentioned how much I like the Trash Can Sinatras? Man oh man, what a great band.
  • All of my friends are going to Vegas lately. Of all the cool places on the map, everyone I know is flocking to a man-made crater of plastic in the desert. What gives?
  • I did, however, enjoy Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The book, I mean. Never saw the flick.
  • My mom is becoming one of those people who forwards bad email jokes. I hate those people, but this is my mom. I don't think I have the heart to tell her.
  • Stoli Raspberry and iced tea is really good. @
Wednesday, April 4, 2001
Question: Why the hell was "Home Improvement" such a popular show? I never saw it when it was on first run, but now that it's in syndication, I get to see it a few times a week, and it is unbelievably bad! Wasn't it on for something like seven or eight years? Granted, it was the seven or eight years of college and grad school for me, so tv prime time wasn't my prime tv-watching time, and I therefore didn't get to see what else was on as far as sitcoms go, but come on! Tim Allen is horrendously stupid, the writing is gag-worthy, and the plots are so so so overdone! Sure, "The Brady Bunch" wasn't exactly Shakespeare, but at least the clothes were funky. "Home Improvement" is just bad bad bad. Woo. Bad.

On a completely different topic: this girl cracks me up. @

Tuesday, April 3, 2001
Yesterday when I was in Chicago, I saw the trading floor of the Financial Center. Made me feel like I was in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

For some reason, on the ride home I started thinking about pu pu platters. You know: those flaming appetizer plates you can get in some Chinese restaurants. When I was a kid, I thougt they were the coolest. My parents thought they were a colossal waste of money, and consequently would never let me get one. My aunt and uncle would always let me order one when they took me out for Chinese. I'm not sure why I started thinking about this, or even why I was so enamored with a few ribs, some fried wontons, and an eggroll surrounding a small flame. Whatever.

My last day at my current job is Friday. How ready am I to leave? Wow. Ready. @

Monday, April 2, 2001
"April is the cruellest month," wrote T.S. Eliot in "The Wasteland." And you know, maybe it's true. Tree pollen, risk of tornadoes here in Michigan, and general wishing that summer would just hurry the hell up and get here make April, for me anyway, quite uncomfortable. I get antsy. Actually, I'm usually antsy no matter what month it is, but that's another story.

April is also national poetry month. To celebrate in full style would require more whisky than I can afford. So, maybe just reading a poem would suffice. Let's hope so. I've typed in, for your reading pleasure, a poem by Billy Collins. It's from his 1988 book The Apple that Astonished Paris.

Walking Across the Atlantic

I wait for the holiday crowd to clear the beach
before stepping onto the first wave.

Soon I am walking across the Atlantic
thinking about Spain,
checking for whales, waterspouts.

I feel the water holding up my shifting weight.
Tonight I will sleep on its rocking surface.

But for now I try to imagine what
this must look like to the fish below,
the bottoms of my feet appearing, disappearing. @

Sunday, April 1, 2001
I know it's wrong to laugh at obituaries, but I wouldn't have to laugh at this one if The New York Times hadn't put such a dopey headline on top of it. Last Sunday's (March 25, 2001) obit pages carry an article on the death of Adolph Levis; the headline reads, "Adolph Levis, Pickled Goods Producer Who Invented a Beef Snack, Dies at 89." Undoubtedly giggle-worthy.

Apparently this guy invented the Slim Jim. (I guess someone had to.) The article mentions that after General Mills bought out Cherry-Levis, Levis's company, the product was reformulated to eliminate organ meat (thanks!) and MSG (again!). It also mentions that in the past few years, revenues from the sales of Slim Jims has increased, mostly due to marketing the product to young men during auto racing and professional wrestling. Ron Dogget, a General Mills exec, is quoted as saying, "We made it an exciting snacking experience, not just a little fat greasy stick." Mmmm. Yes. Lovely.

Please be assured that this is not an April Fool's joke. I know it sounds crazy, like those Tobacco Industry commercials that were running last night during the Final Four games, but this Slim Jim "exciting snacking experience" really did run in The New York Times. And Mr. Levis is indeed dead. @

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